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Cycling Punta Callan East - A World Top 25 Road Bike Climb.
Ride 72 kilometers gaining 3,573 meters to 4,217 meters at 5% average grade.
Climb summary by PJAMM founder John Johnson.
What makes this one of the hardest bike climbs in the world?: (a) length, (b) altitude, and (c) a relative steady and moderate grade, but for a LONG way. 😊 This climb is also quite scenic as it winds its way through a broad canyon, through a few small towns, on up to the peak where we have great views of Huaraz to the east and far below us.
Start of the Punta Callan bike climb.
This climb begins about 110 kilometers (~68 miles) from Huaraz, but because the road curves so much it takes about 2.5 hours to get to the start from Huaraz.
Sunrise was around 6 a.m.
Since the climb is so long, up to such a high altitude, and because we had just spent two days climbing to altitude at an average of seven hours per day, we decided to get an early start to give me 10 hours to comfortably finish the climb.
We stopped in Yupash at about 6:15 a.m. Sunday morning.
Yupash is 18 kilometers down the mountain from Punta Callan summit. We stopped here for some coffee and cheese and bread. We pulled about 6:15 a.m. and intended to get some quick provisions in the little store pictured in the photos above. After about 10 minutes in Yupash, a guy came up to our interpreter, Javier, and told him we had a flat tire - YIKES!
We tried to change the tire ourselves, but the jack that came with our truck was very narrow and it was just not safe enough to raise the truck with it. So, there we are, 6:30 Sunday morning in the tiny village of Yupash, ostensibly without any hope of a tire change in the near future. But wait . . . !! No one is luckier than I am on these great adventures and this may be the greatest bit of luck I have ever encountered, ever.
It turns out that the husband of the woman who runs the little market where we stopped changes tires - not with your standard US tire machine but with a pick ax and crowbar. The total cost to us for this miraculous tire repair was 50 sol ($12.50).
Fixing a tire in the USA calls for a hydraulic $7,000 machine.
Fixing a tire in Peru calls for a pick ax and crowbar (~$10).
Scenes along the first 15 kilometers of the climb.
The grade on this climb is fairly consistent and the steepest kilometer is only 9.5%. It’s not the grade that’ll get you, it’s the altitude, with only 58% of the oxygen that you’d have at sea level at the top.
There are several sets of fairly sizeable hairpins on the climb.
We pass through Pariacoto at kilometer 14.
This climb is in the Cordillera Negra, which is a mountain range in the Andes of west-central Peru located in the Ancash Region. Our route is up the west side of Highway 14 which connects the Pacific (west) side of the region with Huaraz to the east. We stayed in Huaraz which is centrally located to this climb, Punta Olimpica, and Conococha.
We ride past steep and rugged mountainsides along steep cliffs during along the middle section of the climb.
We had many pleasant encounters on our ride.
Scenes along the middle section of the climb.
Pack of vicious dogs at kilometer 67 (mile 41.6).
All dogs are not created equal - this is something I learned in a rather terrifying way at km 67. We had been forewarned about aggressive dogs in the mountains of Peru and carried with us an 18” long bamboo stick to raise as dogs ran out at us. That worked on all but one occasion, which was my close encounter with a pack of about 8-10 dogs near the top of the Punta Callan climb. The dogs in the photo above ran at me when I mounted to ride past them after taking the photo. They did not fear the stick and were so close and aggressive that I dismounted my bike, at which point they began circling around me. Fortunately, a car pulled up as the pack began to move in on me - the car acted as a shield briefly, then the dogs started around the back and towards me again. The driver got out of the car and threw white powder (talc?) at the dogs which backed them off a bit as I loaded my bike into the open hatch of the driver’s SUV - he drove me a quarter-mile out of danger and I then proceeded on my way.
Be very cautious when cycling in the Peruvian Andes - dogs are a problem. Carry a stick or club to scare them off and protect yourself. For the 67-68 km segment of Punta Callan, have a SAG drive you past the dog pack area.
In planning this climb, I gave myself 10 hours to comfortably complete it. We lost two hours for the flat tire which gave me eight hours to get from start to finish - hence the sunset photos. 😯
That’s a wrap!
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